More and more outdoor brands are releasing annual sustainability reports – Suston embarks on a series that reaches out to the seasoned outdoor experts to learn best practices, common challenges, and how to overcome them. Beginning with the retailer Yonderland.

Can you share some key tips for outdoor companies just starting with sustainability reporting, especially when it comes to selecting relevant metrics and data collection methods?

YONDERLAND: In general, the best piece of advice is to get started, no matter how unprepared you feel. You don’t know, what you don’t know and the fastest way to learn and improve is to dive in and find out where the data gaps are and what needs to be put in place to fill the gaps in future.

When it comes to data gathering: be prepared for some manual, hands-on work. It will take some time to figure out where the data is stored or who you need to contact, if it is third-party data. Often, this can be a frustrating job resulting in data gaps, despite best efforts. Our advice is to get comfortable with making reasonable assumptions and estimates to fill areas where currently no visibility exists and establish a roadmap of how to fill these data gaps in future. It is important to document your calculations and assumptions in a manner that is auditable by other parties or the public.

 

Sustainability reporting often involves navigating a complex web of standards and frameworks. Could you highlight some common pitfalls or challenges companies may encounter when choosing a reporting framework, and how they can overcome them?

YONDERLAND: As the EU CSRD will become obligatory from 2025 onwards depending on size of the company, we have decided to focus purely on the CSRD framework going forward. Eventually all EU companies will have to comply with this reporting standard as a minimum requirement. It will guide companies to cover all areas of environmental and social sustainability that are relevant to them. Another good starting point is to review sustainability reports from industry leaders and peers.

 

What strategies have you found most effective in ensuring that sustainability reporting aligns with your organization’s broader sustainability goals and commitments, rather than becoming a mere compliance exercise?

YONDERLAND: The reporting should be set up so that it informs you of your progress on your sustainability strategy, i.e. the KPIs you set should be directly linked to the targets of your strategy. If you do not report on the KPIs that are crucial to your strategy, monitoring and safeguarding your progress will be difficult.

Currently, for most of our metrics we only report once a year. However, if we want to be more active in our business decisions rather than reactive, we require a higher reporting frequency throughout the year. This is something we are working on at Yonderland.

 

Stakeholder engagement is a critical aspect of sustainability reporting. Could you discuss some best practices for effectively engaging with internal and external stakeholders to gather meaningful input and feedback for reporting purposes?

YONDERLAND: Transparency for us means that we communicate our successes as well as our failures and all the learnings in between. It also means we want to use language that is easily understood by consumers, employees, peers and our brands without oversimplifying what are very complex, serious and difficult topics.  Moreover, we want to be as data and fact driven as possible to ensure we can prove any claims we make and our claims can be queried and are auditable for third parties.

We are in regular exchange with our shareholders on our sustainability progress and provide a dedicate report to them. We ensure that their KPI requests are covered by our internal reporting to create a single reporting stream for all sustainability reporting requests and obligations we have. This ensures one set of results and prevents duplication of work.

Internally we incorporate sustainability awareness into our DNA and have regular updates to our employees and welcome questions, input and feedback throughout the year.

Externally, we communicate to our consumers by firmly integrating sustainability messages into our marketing schedule, providing a dedicated webpage on all our fascia outlining out sustainability strategy and progress. Any queries we get from the public are taken very seriously and taken into consideration for further improvement of our reporting communication.

 

Sustainability reporting requires transparency, which may involve sharing both achievements and shortcomings. How do you recommend companies strike a balance between showcasing successes and addressing areas where improvement is needed, without risking damage to their reputation or credibility?

YONDERLAND: We strongly believe hiding a “failure” or “shortcoming” has a far greater reputational risk than explaining why a certain decision has been made, why it turned out to be the wrong decision in the long run and what will be done to remedy the situation. Sustainability is a composition of hugely complex topics and reporting on it is an£” equally complex and challenging “work-in-progress” for most of us. Errors are bound to happen. Even fact-based decisions made with the best possible intentions may turn out to be the wrong call in the long run as “new” facts become available, science changes, or better alternatives become available. This is the nature of the beast. Being honest, open and clear about why something has not turned out as planned is part of being fully transparent.

And speaking with my consumer-hat on, I would feel much more suspicious of a company’s claims or reports if they had not identified areas for improvement. We, the collective outdoor industry, have a long way to go on many fronts in our sustainability efforts as well as the reporting of our efforts; we all have multiple areas where we need to improve upon. Reflecting honestly and transparently on one’s success and shortcomings is a trait that builds credibility rather than abates it.

 

Lead Photo: Unsplash (edited)

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Jonathan Eidse
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com
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